President Trump challenged French President Emanuel Macron to take custody of French ISIS fighters who are currently being held by coalition forces in Syria during a tense exchange ahead of the Tuesday NATO summit in London.
Asked about the handling of foreign ISIS fighters in Syria, Trump stated that “we have a tremendous amount of captured fighters over in Syria . . . many are from France, many are from Germany, many are from U.K., they’re mostly from Europe,” but said he had not yet asked Macron whether France would take back nationals who had joined ISIS. Trump then turned to sarcastically ask Macron.
“Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I could give them to you. You could take every one you want,” Trump said.
Pres. Trump asks French Pres. Macron, "Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I could give them to you."
— ABC News (@ABC) December 3, 2019
Macron replied by saying “let’s be serious,” before dismissing Trump and emphasizing that the coalition should focus on combatting the ISIS’s remaining fighters rather than deciding where to detain those that have been captured.
“It is true you that have foreign fighters coming from Europe, but it is a tiny minority of the overall problem that we have in the region,” Macron said.
Trump later replied with “that’s why he’s a great politician, that was one of the best non-answers I’ve ever heard.”
In the presence of the French president, Trump softened his stance on Macron’s prior “brain death” comments about NATO, after initially saying Macron’s “insulting statement” was “very, very nasty.”
“My statement created some reactions,” Macron said. “I do stand by . . . When you look at what NATO is and should be, first of all, this is a burden-share, and President Trump just reminded you of some figures, that the U.S. over invested decade after decade, it was number one by far.”
Trump then applauded Macron for recognizing the disproportionate U.S. payments. The president has often repeated that some NATO nations weren’t paying their “fair share.”
“I appreciate you saying the United States for decades had been paying way, way disproportionately too much for NATO and you have other countries paying far too little that are directly benefited by it,” Trump said.